If you wanted to put together a cardboard Cliff’s Notes version of John Kruk’s career in Major League Baseball, you could get by with just three Topps Traded baseball cards, spaced a few years apart.

For starters …

Kruk made his Topps debut in the 1986 Topps Traded set, on card number 56T.

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That summer, Kruk had made his MLB debut with the San Diego Padres after five full seasons (plus a handful of April games) in the Friar’s minor league system.

Over the next three-plus seasons in San Diego, Kruk split time between first base and the outfield, establishing himself as a consistent threat to hit .300, with a smidge of pop, and even some speed on the bases (as evidenced by 18 stolen bases in 1987).

But then, in June of 1989, the Pads traded Kruk, along with Randy Ready, to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Chris James.

The Phils made Kruk their more-or-less everyday leftfielder, and he responded with a .331 batting average.

The nebulous of a Philly legend had formed, and Topps memorialized the image on a pretty terrible 1989 Traded card (#63T) that fall:

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It’s almost certainly airbrushed, but the dungeon background and Kruk challenging you to “come at me bro” casts just enough shadow on the whole deal that you can’t really know for sure for sure.

Either way, it was a look that became synonymous with the Phillies’ run of success in the early 1990s, culminating in a World Series loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993.

Kruk was a key member of that Macho Row squad, settling in as the starting first baseman and hitting a robust .309 with a solid 62 home runs and 390 RBI over parts of six seasons with Philly.

Along the way, Kruk picked up three All-Star nods and became a cult hero, both in Philly and in baseball at large — he was self-effacing about his non-athletic appearance, and his comic “encounter” with the Randy Johnson in the 1993 All-Star Game will live in baseball lore forever.

Ah, but all good (and fun) things must end, and the Phillies let Kruk walk when he reached free agency after the 1994 season.

Of course, hitting the open market that winter represented less than ideal timing, considering MLB was drowning in the dark depths of the 1994-95 players strike that had canceled the World Series (among other baseball goodies).

No surprise, then, that Kruk, entering his age-34 season, found the going tough in his search for a new home, even after players and owners found a way to get back on the field.

Finally, in the middle of May, he signed on with the Chicago White Sox.

Of course, by then, the season’s baseball cards had already been cast, so any new marriages would have to wait.

Thus, that fall, we got to see Kruk in yet another year-end uniform update, courtesy of 1995 Topps Traded (#116):

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By then, though, things had changed yet again.

See, Kruk entered the 1995 season with 98 home runs and an even .300 batting average.

And, as it turns out, likely with some specific career goals.

When the Krukster hit his second homer of the year for the White Sox — and the 100th of his career — on July 5, he ended the day hitting .364 on the year.

Over the rest of that month, Kruk’s average slid downhill, and he didn’t connect on another longball.

Finally, entering the ChiSox’s game at Baltimore on July 30, Kruk’s 1995 average stood at .304.

Kruk drew the start at designated hitter, and, when he lined a single to left in the first inning, he was done.

As in … done with baseball.

Kruk came out of the game and retired on the spot, citing bad knees that had gotten worse with the beginning of the new season.

And, of course, there was the matter of his career numbers — he hung up his spikes with those 100 home runs, of course, but also with 1170 hits in 3897 at-bats.

A quick check of the old slide rule reveals that’s a .30023094688 batting average.

Kruk had fully lived up to his promise, making good on the threat to always hit .300.

Like, exactly.